The Canadian Government objects to taking the matter of Israel’s “separation barrier” before the International Court of Justice at The Hague. Canadians may find it difficult to understand how asking the Court for an advisory opinion on the legality of the wall threatens the “peace process” between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
But this is the gist of Canada’s argument — and the argument of the United States, the European Union, Russia and Australia — against asking the Court’s opinion on the 700-kilometre long matrix of concrete walls and electronic fences that cuts deeply into occupied Palestinian territories, further throttling a population that has been hit hard by Israel’s “consciousness searing” strategy of closures, curfews and home demolitions since the outbreak of the latest Palestinian revolt.
Canada’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Gilbert Laurin, acknowledges that Israel’s barrier presents “legal questions” — as if it were a class exercise for first year law students, rather than a question of human suffering — yet, in the same breath, argues against bringing these questions to the forum that was established to arbitrate this sort of international issue. Canadian foreign minister Bill Graham says it is a matter of timing, and “it’s not time for the court to take this as a legal question.” The Australian foreign minister, Alexander Downer said, “this case has the potentialfor the politicization of the International Court of Justice and coulddamage its credibility as a court.”
The thousands of Palestinians imprisoned behind the eight metre high wall that encircles Qalqilya refuse to be edified by Graham’s patience — or fence straddling — and are likely to continue protesting the wall. They say the barrier is a land grab and it will further disruptthe lives of tens of thousands of people, while Israel says it is needed tokeep out Palestinian attackers.
In its submission to the Court outlining its reasons for objecting to the hearings on the separation barrier, the Canadian Government stated that it opposes the construction of the barrier since it “could predetermine the outcome of final status negotiations,” and considers the expropriation of Palestinian lands for its construction as “unacceptable.”
The government is “moreover concerned with the highly prejudicial impact this barrier may have on the already flagging prospects for peace. Further, its adverse effect on the ever dire humanitarian and economic situation in the occupied territories is worrisome.” The “scope and location” of the barrier “further undermines the hopes of many who yet yearn for peace.” The barrier, which has been condemned by the International Committee for the Red Cross, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other human rights groups, raises “serious matters of international law.”
Even with all these reservations, the government still opposes sending the matter before The Hague, because these issues “can only be resolved politically,” that is, at the “negotiating table.” That refraining from trampling over anyone’s human rights is something that should be debated at the “negotiating table” is an idea that I find exceedingly disturbing. The right to live in dignity, free of colonial domination, collective punishment and crippling sanctions is not a matter for negotiations. It is a given, not something to be haggled about, a gift that we must fatuously look forward to as the living conditions in the occupied territories only become more desperate.
The barrier that Israel is constructing on occupied Palestinian lands, cutting deep within these lands to include the colonies it has illegally established, presents a monstrous violation of the rights of the West Bank’s Palestinian inhabitants, a violation that is further entrenched everyday as construction of the barrier progresses along its route.
The Palestinians are, again, being asked to defer and sacrifice their rights to the “peace process,” which, for over a decade, has consecrated the inexorable annexation of Palestinian lands in the occupied West Bank and Gaza for the establishment of Jewish only colonies connected by Jewish only roads, the outstanding features of what the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem described as a regime that “is reminiscent of distasteful regimes from the past, such as the Apartheid regime in South Africa.”
Canada’s reluctance to support the hearing that took place last month at the International Court of Justice is evidence of the very bleak future the Palestinians face, so long as their fate remains confined within a U.S. and Israeli vision (and Israel’s vision would quickly change if the White House decided that Israel should comply with the long-held international consensus that Israel should withdraw back to its pre-1967 borders) of a vassal Palestinian Authority, the sort of faÃ§ade that has characterized the attempts of 20th century imperialism to reduce opposition and opprobrium towards its rule.
So long as the international community does not intervene and attempt to “do everything in their power to ensure that the humanitarian principles underlying the Conventions are applied universally” — as the International Committee of the Red Cross demands of the signatories to the Fourth Geneva Convention — peace will remain a pipe dream.
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